The West


Many of us assume Western civilization derives from a cultural inheritance that stretches back to classical antiquity, a golden thread that binds us from Plato to NATO. But what if all this is wrong? What if the Western world does not have its ultimate origins in a single cultural bloodline but rather a messy bramble of ancestors and influences? What if ‘the West’ is just an idea that has been invented, co-opted, and mythologised to serve different purposes through history? As battles over privilege, identity and prejudice rock the cultural wars, it’s never been more important to understand how the concept of ‘the West’ came to be. This book tells a bold, empowering new story of how the idea of ‘the West’ was created, how it has been used to justify imperialism and racism, and also why it’s still a powerful ideological tool to understand our world.

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‘A truly global perspective of the past. A fantastic achievement’ Peter Frankopan, bestselling author of The Silk Roads

‘Bright, expansive, and iconoclastic, this deliciously witty book has the potential to upset the applecart of “Western Civilisation” itself… Magnificent’ Prof. Suzannah Lipscomb

A radical new account of how the idea of the West has shaped our history, told through the stories of fourteen fascinating lives.

We tend to imagine Western Civilisation as a golden thread, leading through the centuries from classical antiquity to the countries of the modern West – a cultural genealogy that connects Plato to NATO. It is an idea often invoked in the speeches of politicians and the rhetoric of journalists, and which remains deeply embedded in popular culture. But what if it is wrong?

In an epic sweep through the ages, prize-winning archaeologist and historian Naoìse Mac Sweeney charts the history of this idea – an idea of enormous political significance, but which is nonetheless factually incorrect and obscures the wondrous, rich diversity of our past. She reveals how this particular version of Western history was invented, how it has been used to justify imperialism and racism, and why it is no longer ideologically fit for purpose today.

Told through the lives of fourteen fascinating historical figures – including a formidable Roman matriarch, an unconventional Islamic scholar, an enslaved African American poetess and a British prime minister with Homeric aspirations – The West is a groundbreaking retelling of Western history and a powerful corrective to one of the greatest myths of all: Western Civilisation.

Additional information

Weight0.537 kg
Dimensions23.4 × 15.3 × 3.2 cm










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909.09821 (edition:23)


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